I just came back from a great trip to Istanbul, where I experienced a rude awakening for the state of my country, and how far we have been set back. It was an eye opening experience that reinforced what I had already known. The battle is lost.
It was the most beautiful few days. I saw the glorious Islamic and Turkish history. I saw the bizarre, slightly surreal, and absolutely captivating juxtaposition of East and West. One minute it feels like London, but turn a corner and you’ve reached Greece, or Abu Dhabi, or Berlin. Mosques will call out for prayer while you wander these streets, and it all feels oddly balanced. It was everything I had dreamt for my country. A melange of our history, our religions, our progress, our future, all meshing together wonderfully.
In all its beauty, it was also a seriously demoralizing trip. Walking around this functional, excellently planned, successful city, I saw a model of what we could have been. A modern, civilized, functional, (and yes, Muslim), state with a developed infrastructure – and a developed democracy. The Turkish nationalist pride is overwhelming, but unlike our unjustified superiority complex, it is valid. Unhappy with Erdogan’s policies, they took to the streets. They understand and internalize democratic choice, and their foundation for all this is their sincere pride and faith in their country’s potential.
Slap in the face #1.
Slap #2 came in the form of checking in with home to catch up on some news. Apparently, as I had left the country all hell broke loose. Sheikh Ahmad Al Assir had declared war on the country. The army lost 18 soldiers. This was our Ain El Remmene bus and I could feel my stomach churn at the thought. War was inevitable.
A fantastic 30 minute documentary ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aafTQf1hdMg) by the guys over at Shi NN (A popular satire show on Al Jadeed TV) put it nicely: “سقط البلد” / The country has fallen.
And fallen it has. We are left with extremists all around; Shiaa, Sunni, Christian. We are left with an unconstitutional parliament. We are left with a country whose institutions torture and abuse its prisoners, suspects, and citizens.
But save for a few heroes like those Shi NN guys, we don’t speak up much. The apathy has evolved into downright fear. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say.
I want to criticize the army, and the ISF, and the parliament, and president and all the wretched power holders. I wanted to say let’s run into the streets, let us change, down with all armed groups, all militias, all your pathetic excuses of political decision makers. But if you do say what you want to, you would risk being held for questioning, being targeted, being bullied. You would be subjected to hate crimes, or hate speech. Just last week, a tweeter was held for questioning after criticizing the President. Marwa Olleik has fled her city and has been subjected to all sorts of threats and crimes because she is opposing Hezbollah.
How do we expect to move on, if we can’t even vocalize?
And so we have arrived at this point. We are now a police state, where freedoms are repressed, and rights are borderline non existent. We are not functional, we are a farce. We are not going to develop, we have already declined. We will never be Turkey, we will regress until the black hole of sectarianism, corruption and apathy has enveloped us. And we will be left with nothing but our weapons, our martyrs and our allegiances.
We don’t deserve to be proud of our country, our army, our politics, our leaders. We cannot escape our filth and we have reached the end. Put down your slogans, your chants, your dreams, this is defeat. Raise your flag, we’ve lost the battle to develop this country.
And the war has only just begun.
For a recap on the Human Rights Watch report about ISF crimes click here: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2013/Jun-27/221723-hrw-world-should-act-on-lebanon-police-abuse.ashx#axzz2XPTB26Q6
For the video of the army abusing a suspect, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ge70I-UG1zI&feature=youtube_gdata_player
For a one way ticket out, please refer to your nearest embassy.
For happy feelings, here’s a pretty photo of Istanbul: